I finished this book last night and I am still having trouble putting into words what I think of it. There are parts of the book I like and it seems to want to take off to be a good book, then there are other parts it drags so much I was beginning to give up. I stuck it out though and all I can say is this, I am not sure what the hype is about this book, to me you could take all the good parts that really mean something to the story and have about 70 pages the rest is filler.
The hype by critics on the back cover of this book do it a great disservice. The writing is good, the character development solid, and the pacing okay. However, to read the back cover one would imagine the contents to be more exciting, more intense, and more hair-raising than they actually turn out to be. If you like to read slow-paced, character driven fiction and/or enjoy the "chick-flick" genre then you will like this book. However, you will not find an "astonishing end," or "a wild, dark place," or anything "creepy or fascinating" about the book (all things promised on the dust jacket). What you will find is a mix of death, psychic visions/readings, and abused women all combined in a seacoast town known for the eccentricities of its people.
This is a VERY good book! While I did have trouble relating to the characters early on, that was resolved relatively soon, and I felt deeply connected with them as I continued to read this unique and interesting story. Well written, with an intriguing plot, I highly recommend this book.
Towner Whitney is forced to return to Salem MA, after an absence of almost 15 years, when her Great-Aunt Eva goes missing. Once she is back in Salem Towner soon finds out that she will need to confront the ghosts of her past in order to move on into her future. Through a series of flashbacks and memories the reader finds out that the Whitney family is not quite what they seem. The story is filled with a cast of eccentric characters from Towner's mother May who refuses to step a foot off the island she lives on, to her uncle Calvin who has been saved and has started his own religious cult at a local campground, to a collection of witches who seem to have gravitated to Salem because of it's historical past.
The writing in this story is excellent and there were many features that made this book appeal to me. Each chapter is prefaced with a quote from The Lace Reader's Guide by Eva Whitney which is a convention I found appealing in itself. However, these little excerpts do more than just introduce the tone of each chapter, They end up providing important foreshadowing of what is to come later in the book. Meanwhile, the true story of Towner's family is revealed to the reader slowly, memory by painful memory, as Towner actually draws her past back to her consciousness out from the mental "lock-box" where she has stored all her Salem memories away. Then, one final twist at the very end of the story makes the reader to want to go back and start the story all over again, re-reading it with the new eyes.
This is a great book that will keep you guessing throughout.
The Lace Reader is not Great Literature (thank god), but I did enjoy it very much. It's a little more thriller-y than my usual thing, however it's not exactly a thriller either. I did not see that *particular* big twist at the end coming though there were more minor plot twists I did anticipate, which was fine. I'd been through a string of unsatisfactory books recently and this ended it. In short, my reading palate has been satisfactorily cleansed by this book. It is not as sorbet-y as that metaphor might lead one to believe--it's got more gravitas than a sorbet--but it was certainly refreshing. I'd recommend it as a good summer beach read but with more heft than that might might ordinarily imply. It's not a potato chip read, more like pita chips and hummous. Snacky, tasty, but not unhealthy or empty calories.
Now that I think about it, it kind of reminds me of The Time Traveler's Wife for reasons that I cannot quite pin down in my own mind. Partly it's that it is mainstream fiction with a little skid into the speculative/paranormal realm, not enough to scare the normals of course, just enough to make things more interesting. I am a sucker for a sympathetic but unreliable narrator, and Barry's book has that in spades. I predict good things for Ms. Barry if she can keep this up.